A bad trip on mushrooms can be a very scary and unpleasant experience. However, it can also provide an opportunity for personal growth with some preparation and the right attitude. This post will explore how to survive a bad trip on mushrooms by understanding what causes them in the first place as well as tips to help you cope if they do happen.
What is a bad trip?
A bad trip is described by Erowid.org (a comprehensive internet resource for information on psychoactive substances) as ” an overly-negative psychedelic experience, generally characterized by intense anxiety and paranoia. The Tripper may become convinced that he has made a serious mistake in taking the substance.
Feelings of overwhelming loss of control, existential angst, and guilt are common. The bad trip may involve terrifying feelings of being completely out of one’s element, as well as many other emotionally negative experiences.”
Bad trips are not a component of every mushroom experience; however, if you do have a particularly difficult time, it is helpful to know what the possible causes could be to try to avoid them in the future.
Who gets bad trips?
It isn’t necessarily naivete or ignorance that causes someone to have a bad trip. Everyone is different and will react differently to various substances. A bad trip can happen at any time during the course of your experimentation with psychedelics, even if you have had numerous successful tripping experiences before. They don’t always mean something is wrong with you or that you are doing anything wrong – they are just part of the natural risks associated with exploring your mind through the use of psychedelic substances.
What causes a bad trip?
There is no one particular reason why someone might experience a negative reaction while taking psychedelics. There are four main reasons people have cited for having had an unpleasant experience:
- Not being prepared
- Being in an unfamiliar environment
- Having a mental problem (i.e., depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) that would surface under these conditions anyway
- Taking too much of the substance — some people seem to be more sensitive to this than others.
- Smoking too much marijuana
- Sensory overstimulation
How to know if you have a bad trip?
In order to minimize your chances of experiencing a bad trip, you should first understand how they happen and what their warning signs can be. Knowing what to look for can help you recognize a bad trip when it happens. For example, even if you have never had a bad trip before and don’t know what one feels like, it’s always helpful to know that anxiety is a common theme in bad trips. If you experience extreme anxiety when tripping, it may be prudent to reduce your trip’s intensity to avoid negative feelings and thoughts becoming too overwhelming for you.
Warning signs that might precede a bad trip include:
- Restlessness or a general feeling of discomfort
- A sense that something isn’t right; an unsettling feeling that accompanies certain aspects of the experience but not others (for example, while seeing fractals on the computer screen or listening to music can be extremely pleasant, everyday sights such as trees or streetlights may seem ominous or even terrifying)
- A sense of disconnection from one’s body, accompanied by a sense that the environment may not be real, and/or feelings of unreality
- Onset confusion — difficulty recalling what you did just before starting to trip, for example; inability to recall your current surroundings; inability to recollect what happened at certain points during the session prior to feeling confused (e.g., “What was I just talking about?”)
- Uncontrollable inner dialog — incessant worrying or obsessing on particular issues
- Feeling as though your thoughts are controlled by your environment rather than vice-versa: e.g., feeling as if you’re being told what to think instead of having your own thoughts
- A sense that time is extremely slow, or that you have no sense of time at all (e.g., “Are we done yet?”)
- Feeling as though your immediate surroundings are strange and unfamiliar — i.e., everything looks normal, but it just doesn’t feel right; reality feels like a dream, feeling as if the world isn’t real, etc.
How to stop a bad trip?
If you do experience a negative reaction during your trip, there are several things that you can do to help yourself feel better. It is important to know that just because you experience something unpleasant, it does not mean that the substance has ‘messed up’ your brain or somehow negatively changed you as a person. Psychedelics are very powerful tools for exploring, healing, and growing; if used wisely, they will only improve your life in the long run. As such, any difficult experiences should be viewed as opportunities to learn from and grow rather than being harmful in themselves (although almost everyone would prefer to avoid them).
Also, keep in mind that the sooner after taking the mushrooms that one takes action, the more effective their effect will be. If you wait too long, your mind will already have made up its’ own interpretation of the experience, and you’ll be stuck with it.
Talking to friends who are experienced trippers – if they are sensitive to you and willing to help, then they can let you know how their own experiences went in dealing with a bad trip. They may also give useful insights into what might be happening for you during your experience; allowing them to see things from your perspective can often provide valuable answers as well as reassurance that everything is okay even if at first it doesn’t seem so. Ideally, this step should take place before removing yourself from an unfamiliar environment, but afterward, it can still be helpful.
Trying controlled breathing exercises can help bring you back to reality and handle the panic of a bad trip. However, if you are in an uncomfortable environment and feel too overwhelmed to move, take a deep breath, hold it for as long as possible without straining yourself (about 5-10 seconds), then gently exhale. Wait a few seconds before breathing again – this is one repetition. Repeat this several times until you feel that your heart rate has slowed down a bit or else pass out from lack of oxygen.
Suppose you are in an unfamiliar environment or around people who may not understand. In that case, it is best to try and remove yourself from the situation (not merely isolate yourself within it) as soon as possible — this will help reduce stress and anxiety levels. If you’re at home, then turn off your phones, leave the room, take a shower, etc. There’s no one particular method of isolation that works best for everyone; just find what works for you.
It’s important not to think of any difficulties experienced on a psychedelic as being “bad trips” — they are merely a learning opportunity. To turn something negative into something positive, you have to first accept that it happened, and secondly, realize that there is no such thing as a bad trip. By viewing difficult experiences as opportunities within themselves rather than something to fear and avoid, your mindset towards future experiences will change in a way that can only improve your life. Rather than fearing what might happen during the session, your anticipation tends to more reflect how much growth you expect to experience from it. This is a positive mindset that should be embraced, as there are no bad trips when set in this frame of mind.